In Part 1 of this article, I discussed:
- What happens if you don't register your copyright
- Automatic copyright protection
- The theory behind copyright registration
- General benefits of registering your copyright
In Part 2 I want to go into some real, tangible benefits of registering a copyright and then explain how the process of registering a copyright works.
What are the real benefits of copyright registration?
After reading Part 1 of this article, you now understand the premise behind copyright registration – but how does this work in reality?
Registering your copyright provides concrete benefits.
As stated in Part 1, copyright registration establishes a public record of your claim to the copyright.
EVIDENCE OF VALIDITY
The simple act of filing a piece of paper with the Copyright Office (along with a fee & and deposit of your work) establishes only a public record of your CLAIM to the copyright.
However, if you register your copyright within 5 years from publication
(click here for a
definition of “publication”), this works as evidence of the actual
VALIDITY of your copyright (though someone can try to rebut this
SUING FOR INFRINGEMENT
You cannot sue someone for infringing your work until you have registered your copyright with the Copyright Office.
STATUTORY DAMAGES & ATTORNEY FEES
If you register your copyright within 3 months of publication OR prior to an infringement of your work, you can receive “statutory damages” and your attorney’s fees if you win an infringement case.
Statutory damages for copyright infringement are provided for in Section 504(c) of the Copyright Act.
This states that a copyright owner in an infringement case can decide to recover certain damages set forth by law, instead of receiving the actual damages they incurred and the actual profits the infringer made from the infringement.
This boils down to damages between $750 and $30,000 per infringed work.
If the court decides that the infringement is willful, damages can be as high as $150,000 per infringed work.
If the court determines that the infringer was unaware that his acts constituted infringement (so-called “innocent” infringement), the court can reduce the statutory damages to a minimum of $200 per infringed work.
In addition to statutory damages, the owner of a registered copyright can get their attorney’s fees paid for by the infringer in an infringement case.
Statutory damages received a good deal of press in a recent case by the RIAA against Jammie Thomas of Minnesota.
The RIAA, the trade group representing the major record labels, sued Thomas for copyright infringement because of unauthorized copies of downloaded songs traced to her computer.
Because the major labels had registered their copyrights, the RIAA was entitled to elect for statutory damages on their behalf.
The jury in that case came back with a judgment against Thomas of $9,250 per unauthorized download for 24 downloads.
The grand total? $222,000!
Finally, registering your copyright means that you can record that registration with the U.S. Customs Service for protection against the importation of infringing copies.
How do you register your copyright?
Now that you are convinced that registering your copyrights is worth your while, let’s look at the actual process of registration.
Its as simple as 1-2-3.
1. Fill out the appropriate form.
2. Pay the appropriate fee.
3. Include the appropriate deposit of your work.
PICKING THE RIGHT FORM
Depending on the type of work you are trying to register, you will need to determine the appropriate form to fill out.
There are separate forms for the following types of works:
Form TX (Literary Works) is for books, manuscripts, online work, pamphlets, poetry, reports, tests, automated databases, computer programs and other text.
Form VA (Visual Arts) is for pictorial, graphic or sculptural works, including 2D and 3D works of fine, graphic and applied art.
Form PA (Performing Arts) is for works intended to be “performed” for an audience or through a device. This includes musical compositions & lyrics, dramatic works like scripts, pantomimes and choreographic works and motion pictures and other audio-visual works.
Form SR (Sound Recordings) is for recorded works of music, spoken word or other sounds (but not sounds accompanying a movie).
Form SE (Serials & Periodicals) is for periodicals, newspapers, magazines or other similar works intended to be issued in successive parts.
Form MW (Mask Work) is for the 2D or 3D layout of an integrated computer chip.
It typically costs $45 per registered work. In the case of Form SE for periodicals, you can pay a “group registration” fee of $25 per registered work.
The deposit is the copy of the actual work you are registering. This must be sent in along with the fee and the appropriate form.
Depending on what you are registering, the deposit requirements vary. Click here to read about the deposit requirements for the various categories of copyright registration.